Space mystery: Astronomers discover radio source in nearby galaxy

Astronomers have identified a radio “relic” in a relatively close galaxy cluster dubbed A2384. Radio relics are elongated radio sources spread over a huge area and most likely created by electromagnetic space radiation.

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The remnants of these radio waves occur in the form of spectacular single or double arcs at the furthest edges of galaxies.

These anomalies are of particular interest because the number of radio relics associated with merger shocks – created when galaxy clusters collide – is still small.

The researchers made the discovery with the use of South Africa’s cutting-edge MeerKAT radio telescope.

A2384 is known to be a relatively close, low-mass, complex cluster of galaxies.

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The area is made up of two components, called A2384(N) and A2384(S).

There is believed to be a dense X-ray filament between the pair, which astronomers estimate to be approximately 2.3 million light-years across.

Led by Dr Viral Parekh of Rhodes University, the international team of astronomers first found A2384 with MeerKAT more than a year ago.

The astronomers discovered a radio source right at the edge of the galaxy cluster that was eventually identified as a single radio relic.

The researchers wrote: “In our MeerKAT images, we discovered an extended radio source at the bottom of the A2384(S) cluster.”

This radio relic resides perpendicular to the axis of the cluster, stretching from the south-east to the north-west.

The radio source’s dimensions are approximately 2.7 by 0.86 million light-years and it is believed to have extraordinary power.

And the source’s shape and size suggest it is a radio relic associated with a merger shock and the A2384 cluster.

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Additionally, the MeerKAT data indicates the relic in A2384 is a very steep spectrum source.

They also assume the cause of this merger is probably the result of shock wave spreading during the passage of the low-mass cluster through the heavier one.

This most likely created a trail resembling a hot X-ray filament between the cluster’s two components.

The researchers said: ”During the interaction of the clusters, sub-cluster A2384(S) has passed through A2384(N) and is likely to have removed a large amount of hot gas (and a number of galaxies) from both systems in the direction of the merger.”

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